Authored by FreightWaves,
U.S. airlines will soon fly temporary freighters with cargo, instead of passengers, in the seats.
Since domestic passenger carriers began operating some aircraft in cargo-only mode two months ago, they have been largely restricted to loading freight in the lower hold where baggage and shipments normally ride. On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an exemption allowing airlines to carry cargo on seats.
Airlines had requested a two year break from existing regulations, but the FAA said the exemption is only valid through the end of 2020. The petition was filed by Airlines for America (A4A) on behalf of its members, so interested carriers must still submit a letter of intent and receive specific authorization from the agency.
The FAA determined the exemption was justified to ensure critical shipments for the COVID-19 response are not delayed at a time when most passenger flights have been suspended, creating severe capacity shortages for freight. Permitting the use of seats to increase aircraft efficiency “supports the sustainment of this critical component of the U.S. transportation infrastructure during the public health emergency and while passenger demand remains depressed, which may persist past the public health emergency,” the decision said.
There is too much market uncertainty at the moment to grant regulatory relief beyond Dec. 31, the FAA said, adding it will consider an extension at a later date depending on conditions.
The FAA has yet to rule on a separate A4A petition for permission to remove seats